AUSTIN, Texas — During his weekly update to the Travis County Commissioners Court Tuesday, Austin-Travis County Interim Public Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said Austin Public Health (APH) is monitoring an increase in reported COVID-19 cases among the younger population.
Specifically, Dr. Escott said the 10-19 and 19-29 age groups are reporting rising case numbers while other groups are on the decline.
According to APH data, the college student positivity rate is 9.4% (about double that of the general population) as a result of 235 tests last week. Meanwhile, the positivity rate among high school students is 14% (about triple that of the general population) as a result of 107 tests. For middle school students, the rate is 5.6% as a result of 36 tests. And 48 test results from the previous week put the elementary student positivity rate at 1.5%.
Dr. Escott said APH is working with local superintendents and college leaders in order to gain control of this increase. He said they will be stressing the importance of social distancing, personal hygiene and masking as preventative measures.
He also said that health officials met with the University of Texas fraternity and sorority leaders on Monday to discuss how they can engage with their members and to discuss their responsibilities in limiting the spread of the virus.
“The fact that we’ve seen an increase in cases is concerning, but because they’re primarily in younger age groups that have a much, much lower risk of being hospitalized and dying, we’re not seeing a significant impact on the hospitalizations,” said Escott. “But, of course, it can spread outside of those age groups, which is why it’s really important not only that they try to avoid transmission, but once they’ve been exposed, once they’re sick, it is absolutely critical that they protect other people from them by isolating.”
APH Director Stephanie Hayden said UT Austin will start looking at providing isolation facilities for students who contract COVID-19. Right now, students are allowed to stay at the City of Austin isolation facilities, but there is a capacity concern.
The current seven-day moving average of new cases for the area is 105. Dr. Escott said that although there has been an increase in cases over the last 11 days, it is not a "dramatic" increase. However, he said it is significant compared to the low reported on Sept. 3.
The seven-day moving average of hospital admissions has moved to 14.9. The area needs to be below 10 in order to move to Stage 2 of the risk-based guidelines.
Dr. Escott said APH is hoping to reach a plateau again soon as this figure continues to decrease.
Dr. Escott said local hospital capacity is also looking good. As of Monday, 93 hospital beds (moving average of 97.7) and 34 ICU beds (moving average of 37.4) were occupied. Also, he reported 18 ventilators were in use, moving the seven-day moving average to 22.9.
Dr. Escott's full presentation can be watched below at the 2:13:25 mark:
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